1 John 2:12 “I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name's sake.”

Dear CBC Family,

Forgiveness. Sadly, in recent decades, this word has taken on a connotation of “psychological freedom” instead of freedom from sin, and this has brought some confusion about the whole concept of what it means to forgive.

The forgiveness that God extends to lost people is conditional upon their confession of sin and repentance. Confession involves agreeing with God about the sin, and repentance requires a change of mind concerning the wrong attitude or action and a change in behavior that demonstrates a genuine willingness to forsake the sin. Confession of sin is not an act of self-condemnation but of seeking God’s provision for the remedy in Christ.

I think we all get that. But what about the sin that a converted believer falls into? This is where I believe there is tremendous confusion. First, do not take the Lord’s prayer of Matthew 6:12, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who trespass against us” as instruction for us under the New Covenant. Jesus taught under the Old Covenant. Gal. 4:5 says Jesus “came as one under the law to redeem those under the law”. The Book of Hebrews tells us that the New Covenant went into effect at the “death of the testator.” 9:16-17.

This is why Jesus and Paul taught “contradictory” things.  Paul said we have complete forgiveness in many places. This forgiveness is not predicated upon us being forgiving or confessing. For example, Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and tenderhearted to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you.” The word forgave is in the aorist tense, so it means that at one time God forgave you of all your sins and you are still currently in that forgiven state. This one act is never repeated, thus there is no longer a sin issue between God and His people. God does not forgive, then un-forgive, then forgive again.

In the Lord’s prayer, which is NOT New Covenant, Jesus told His disciples, who were under the law, to ask God to forgive them in direct proportion to the way they forgive others. No thank you! In the New Covenant, God forgives our sins for Jesus’ sake. 1 John 2:12 “I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven for His name’s sake.” This is right after 1 John 1:9, which does not apply to the believer as it is written to the gnostic, so you see the truth that all of a Christian’s sins are forgiven, once and for all, completely forever. Obviously, we still sin and what we need to do is repent (turn away from it, come into agreement that it is wrong, ask for grace to overcome the actions and thank God that Jesus paid for it.) Jesus’ work was not partial but complete “He bore ALL our sins in His body of the tree.”

The Bible does tell a believer to “confess your sins one to another” (James 5:15) so that the relationship that was affected by the sin between brothers can be healed. There is no New Testament confession booth for God.

The last area of forgiveness that I want to address is that between people. Once again, the Bible is not silent. There is a very unbiblical idea that Christians are simply just to forgive everyone. It is unfortunate that this error has crept into the church. Let me try and shed some light here. There are two types of people in the world, those who are saved and those who aren’t. The Bible addresses both.

For the issue of sin between two believers I have already mentioned James 5 above. But we need to see what parameters the Bible gives us. Jesus taught a principle that forgiveness between those in a covenant must be predicated upon repentance. Old or New Covenant makes no difference here as James 5 shows. Jesus said “If your brother sins against you seven times in one day, and seven times repents, you must forgive him.” Luke 17:4. Notice closely. Jesus says the prior necessity to us forgiving a “brother” is repentance. We can forgive them for what their actions have done to us ONLY because God has already forgiven them of all their sins as a believer against Him.

The other category of people is those who are not saved. I cannot forgive them! When someone commits a crime, the person who was harmed by the crime is not the one who punishes the criminal or forgives them. Only the state can legally mete out punishment. It is the law that judges a person guilty or innocent, not the victim. It is the law that was violated.

In the same way, all moral law begins with God thus the Bible is clear that all sin is ultimately against God (Ps 51:4 and tons of others) thus only God can punish it or forgive it. So, for those in the world, we have no power or authority to forgive their sin; only God does. Occasionally, when someone who is not saved wrongs me, I will tell them the above. It is quite a good conversation starter.

In conclusion, a “brother” already has been forgiven by God so I can excuse the effects of their actions to me by saying I forgive the effect of their sin on me since God has forgiven the sin. For the unbeliever my “forgiveness” means nothing as God is still holding that sin against them until such time that they receive Christ. To blindly and unconditionally forgive everyone leaves the lost with a false sense of security and the believer with a hardened heart against the Holy Spirit’s work of conviction and sanctification. It is not loving to do either.

If you like painting, we will start painting room 700 this coming week. The carpet has been removed and, after painting, we will be installing the floor. The playground area is completely cleaned out and ready for concrete. There is a lot going on around here, so contact Tris or Bruce if you would like to help out.

Join us this weekend for a wonderful time in God’s word from Romans 12:10-11 in a message called “Love by Showing Honor.” This is a tremendous text that will set us up for Easter week.

Blessings to you all,

Pastor Scott




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